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AFRICOM partnership endures during COVID-19

JINJA, Uganda--1st Lt. Vincent Nzayisenga, medical clinic officer, Uganda People’s Defence Force, gives directives to UPDF soldiers about the layout of a UN-standard level-2 mobile treatment facility, May 15, 2019, during the vendor training event at the URDCC motor pool, Jinja, Uganda. (Photo by U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Grady Jones, Public Affairs, U.S. AFRICOM)
April 21, 2020

As the world fights to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S., through U.S. Africa Command, is doing its part to help African partner nations combat this new enemy.

In 2019 four African partner nations, Ghana, Senegal, Uganda, and Rwanda, were provided with the training and equipment to efficiently and effectively set-up, take down, and operate an UN-standard level-2 hospital through the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership program (APRRP). This program, funded by the U.S. Department of State, helps African nations enhance peacekeeping and security capabilities. Of these four partner nations, three countries are now deploying their UN-standard level-2 hospitals as part of their response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are proud to stand by our partners as we battle this deadly virus in Africa and around the globe,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. James Vechery, deputy commander, U.S. Africa Command. “As we work shoulder-to-shoulder, it is exciting to see our African partners putting the capabilities we’ve developed over the past few years to such great use during this global pandemic.”

The hospitals are one example of efforts undertaken by U.S. Africa Command to assist African partners to enhance their medical capabilities and pandemic response. Programs such as tactical combat casualty care training, medical readiness exercises, and conferences focused on pandemic response efforts all demonstrate the long-term investment by the command.

Ghana, Senegal, and Uganda independently decided to deploy their hospitals in support of their national response, said U.S. Air Force Maj. Mohamed Diallo, International Health Specialist, U.S. Africa Command.

Both Senegal and Uganda are using the hospitals as overflow facilities for existing hospitals.

“We are going to start treating people,” said Lt. Col. Henry Obbo, Uganda Land Forces spokesperson. “It’s just put here as emergency, just in case the means of health might require additional facilities.”

Ghana, which has nearly 300 confirmed cases of COVID-19, is using the facility to treat those affected by the virus

“Now more than ever, the United States is pleased to work together with the government, armed forces, and people of Ghana. This mobile hospital will directly serve those most in need,” said Amb. Stephanie Sullivan, U.S. Ambassador to Ghana. “Together, we will emerge from this stronger and more united.”

She echoed Ghanaian President Akufo Addo’s call for all Ghanaians and residents of Ghana to stay home as much as possible as it’s one of the most effective ways to combat the pandemic and ‘flatten the curve.’

Each hospital package includes 14 shelters with a total of 690 square meters (7,427 square feet) of shelter space, consisting of an intensive care unit, a radiology unit, and 20 beds.

“While these hospitals were originally designed to support Senegalese soldiers on the battlefield, the Senegalese military has now deployed one of these hospitals and personnel to the city of Touba to assist in the emergency response to the Covid-19 outbreak,” said Amb. Tulinabo S. Mushingi, U.S. Ambassador to Senegal. “Combined with the support from other U.S. agencies, such as CDC and USAID, these contributions have greatly strengthened the ability of Senegal to respond to the COVID-19 threat and demonstrate the strength of the 60-year strong U.S.-Senegalese partnership.”

The effort highlights a whole-of-government approach, aimed at ensuring African partners are educated, resourced, and supported to contain the spread of the virus.

“This program, and the medical capabilities it brings to the COVID-19 fight on the African continent, is a prime example of the unique, continuing commitment that U.S. Africa Command pledges to our Africa partners throughout Africa,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Krystal Murphy, deputy command surgeon, U.S. Africa Command. “It is our hope that the support we provide to our partners enables them to lessen human suffering and strengthen their nations, their people, and the global community.”